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words than that they should be entertain- | writers administer, and hence their popued by the wit of these very clever but larity. Looked at from a purely literary very loose writers. Miss Edgeworth in- point of view, their work is of an inferior troduced an entirely different class of order. The interest of their books defiction, and was one of the first to secure pends solely upon incident. Occasionally, a more favorable consideration for works indeed, they sketch a character with conof this class in quarters where hitherto siderable skill, but, for the most part, the they had been regarded with mingled actors are only painted in indistinct outdread and aversion. Sir Walter Scott line, and are forgotten as soon as the voldid more to overturn the old notions ume is laid down. The plot, or rather about novels, and to secure for them the the secret on which it generally turns, is place they now hold in our literature. every thing; and when once the mystery The extraordinary popularity which his is unraveled, no one cares to look at the tales at once achieved, the great intellect- book again. Of all the readers who folual power which they revealed, their lowed the windings of the Dead Secret freedom from mortal taint, their great with intense and excited interest, or whose value as examples of a finished style, and, hearts were harrowed by the wrongs and perhaps, not least, their character as his- sufferings of the mysterious Woman in torical novels, all contributed to this end. White, or were kindled to indignation or The danger of late has been that the re- moved to pity by the career of the extraaction may go too far, and indiscriminate ordinary young lady who had No Name, condemnation be succeeded by an equally we wonder whether there are half a dozen, indiscriminate toleration, if not approval. who, after they had arrived at the dénoueWe could easily point to works, far more ment, ever cared to turn over half-a-dozen pernicious in their influence than the pages again. Perhaps the writers of this coarsest tales of the older novelists, which, class of books may tell us they do not nevertheless, find an undisputed entrance write for immortality. If so, we into the best conducted families, and are promise them they will have their reward; read by the young at the very age when for in a very short time their names will they are least able to detect and resist the be forgotten, and their works, after a brief evil that lurks in them. fever of notoriety, will take their places on those higher shelves of country circulating libraries, by the side of books, hardly less celebrated in their day, which have long since passed into oblivion.
But it is with the moral aspect of these works that we are chiefly concerned. If it pleases writers to concort, and readers to peruse, tales which violate every condition of probability; if the laws of psychological consistency are to be outraged in the delineation of character, and the experiences of life ignored in the elaboration of a plot; if we are thus to have novels filled with men and incidents such as we never have met and are never likely to meet; and if the reading public is resolved to stamp on such productions the mark of its approval-we can only be silent, and wait for the return of more sober thought and cooler judgment. But if, in addition to all these, the restraints of morality are spurned; if our young people are to be made familiar with things, in relation to which "ignorance is bliss;" if the most false standards are to be set up for the estimate of principles and actions; if the most specious pleas are to be urged for vice, while virture is exhibited
The evil is one that has greatly increased of late. If we compare the works of Thackeray or Dickens with those which at present win the favor of novel-readers, we can not fail to be struck with the very marked degeneracy. Perhaps the rise of the "Sensation" school may itself be regarded as a reaction from the more tame and quiet style of tale which Mr. Thackeray preferred; and some of its success may be attributed to the indifference which both he and Dickens have shown to the plot of their stories. To follow the subtle workings of human nature, to admire the play of wit and humor, to study homilies on the evils of society, however pleasant ly they may be disguised, are but wearying occupations for those who go to a book for amusement rather than instruction. They want more stir and excitement, they rebel against the dullness and reality of scenes taken from common life, and ask to be lifted up into the regions of fancy and romance; they cry out for a succession of startling surprises that shall hold their attention spell bound, and produce, in fact, a species of mental intoxication. To this craving our "sensation"
under every disadvantage; and if the general result of the whole is to confuse the distinctions of right and wrong-then are there other higher than mere esthetic considerations that compel us to raise our voice against the insult offered to the moral sense and feeling of the community. These are the charges that we allege, and that, did our space permit and were it at all desirable, we could easily substantiate against a number of our modern novels.
Miss Evans does not belong to the "sensation" school, but certainly her tales are open to these moral objections. Adam Bede, we have always thought, was judged with extraordinary leniency, owing, probably, to the favorable impression produced by the opening chapters, and the fact that there was an amount of apparent reverence shown throughout for moral and religious worth. But who that is at all concerned about the ethical tendency of such books, can read it a second time, calmly and dispassionately, without feeling that there is an under-current of sentiment pervading the whole that is any thing but favorable to high-toned virtue? The Mill on the Floss was far more undisguised in its character. It is true that it did not actually justify, or even extenuate vice; but its influence certainly tended to abate the sentiment of horror with which any approach to it should be regarded. It can not be too often repeated that this is just the kind of representation most to be dreaded. If vice be exhibited in its own naked deformity, the result is a portraiture too loathsome to be endured by any but the most abandoned: but these carefully drawn pictures in which the darker shades are kept out of sight, or so mellowed and toned down as to lose much of their unpleasant character, and the general effect is relieved by the introduction of other features, command attention and awaken a sympathy which would be refused were their real character and design better understood.
Mrs. Wood is a writer who puzzles us. Some of her stories are as pure, as free from every thing that could offend, as earnest in their inculcation of virtue, as any writings of their class. On the other hand, others are just as unhealthy in their tone and as questionable in their principles. Perhaps, in all there is too much straining after effect. Even Danesbury House, which obtained the prize offered by the Scottish Temperance League, and
first won her a name, is, to a very glaring extent, disfigured by this fault. Of course, it was the desire of those who instituted the competition that the story should represent drunkenness as the parent of all vice and misery; but it must have required strong digestion even for a teetotaller to swallow all the horrors that Mrs. Wood has crowded into the narrow compass of her tale. It may be that the ad. judicators had nothing better offered to them; but, believing that the moral effect of the book is utterly destroyed by its exaggeration, we have always regretted their decision, and viewed it as one evidence of that growing appetite for sensation which is the curse of our literature. We object, too, to the general moral of Mrs. Wood's good books, in which virtue is always rewarded, and vice always punished. This may be poetic justice, but it is not that which marks God's dealings with men in the present life; and it certainly rests the appeal on behalf of goodness on the lowest possible ground. But these are very venial faults compared with those Mrs. Wood has perpetrated in some of her other works. East Lynne is one of the most powerful, but one, also, of the most mischievous, books of the day. Throughout an exciting, though very improbable, story, our sympathies are excited on behalf of one who has betrayed the most sacred trust man can repose in woman. All that the union of beauty, rank, talent, and misfortune can do to create a prejudice in favor of the criminal is done, while the sense of the enormity of her crime is greatly enfeebled by the unamiable light in which her husband is presented. To exhibit a woman possessed of every natural gift that could call forth admiration, and then to surround her with circumstances that seem, as though by a resistless fate, to draw her into sin, is to inflict serious injury on the interests of morality; for which it is but very poor compensation to find that the sin is followed by a certain amount of suffering. Verner's Pride is hardly less objectionable. Happily, however, we have not in it to deal with that kind of complication in which our lady novelists delight-a man with two wives, or a wife with two husbands. At one part of the story we appeared to be on the verge of it, and, therefore, ought to be the more grateful for the deliverance. The Shadow of Ashlydyat, apart from the supernatural ma
chinery which is introduced, is a clever story, but not free from the taint that sullies those just named. We can see no possible good, and much probable harm, to arise from the exhibition of such relations as those here depicted between George Godolphin and Charlotte Pain. Mrs. Wood is capable of better things; we trust she will yet perform them, and that she will live to blot out the memory of the errors committed in the worst class of her novels by the abler and more ennobling books of a brighter future. If she would write better, she should write less, and should eschew every temptation to pander to a depraved appetite, and to purchase a present and unworthy popularity by the loss of a more enduring and
But the most egregious offender against good morals and correct taste is Miss Braddon, with the "fast" ladies whom she selects for heroines, and the equivocal positions in which she contrives to place them, with the exciting scenes of passion which she loves to draw, and no doubt draws with great power; and, above all, with (what a medical journal has pointed out in several cases) her frequent contemplation of suicide as the refuge from all human griefs. This feature is seen in one of her earliest books, The Trail of the Serpent, and is more or less manifest in most of the others. Books more subtle and more pernicious it would not be easy to find. They are clever, very clever; their plots often improbable, but always exciting; they will while away a leisure hour very pleasantly, and are sure to be eagerly read; while few readers will give any heed to the moral poison which is every where diffused through them.
The Times tells us that they are written only to amuse; and no doubt they succeed in their purpose. But the question arises, whether we may not pay too dear a price for amusement. If it is not possible to furnish amusement, except by giving the
most false conceptions of duty, and the most unreal pictures of life; if our young people can only be entertained by being introduced to scenes of passion, folly, and murder; if the only actors by whose doings their time can be enlivened, and the necessary mental recreation secured, are ladies who deceive their fathers, and hoodwink their husbands, who indulge in the slang of grooms and jockeys, and practice all the arts of gamblers, who get rid of inconvenient partners by murder, and strive to conceal their guilt by arson; and who, in fact, do not scruple to transgress every law of the Decalogue, if it be necessary for the attainment of their own ends-then it is better that we do without amusement altogether. We should speak less severely if we saw in Miss Braddon's recent works any sign of improvement. But we do not. Eleanor's Victory is, in our view, one of the most painful books she has written. That a young girl should form a plan of revenge, should make it the companion of her thoughts night and day for years, should feign love and marry a trusting and noble minded man, solely because the alliance seemed to promise her success in the one aim of her life, should, in truth, yield her whole soul and body up to the dominion of this violent passion, is a conception happily so monstrous as to be incredible; but its elaboration in a work of art is an outrage on right feeling, as well as a mistake in judgment.
But we must close, only expressing an earnest desire that we may, ere long, see the rise of a purer school. Fiction may be a valuable auxiliary in the advancement of goodness and truth; and we may naturally wish to see it wielded by men of high character for the attainment of pure and noble ends. As it is, there is much in the novels of the day against which every wise parent will warn his children, as unfitted either to instruct the mind, or purify the heart.
From the London Society Magazine.
EARLY ENGLISH COMMERCE.
BRITISH Commerce began more than! British trade declined after the Anglotwo thousand years ago. The Phoenician | Saxon settlement, but, under English and Carthaginian traders, visiting the management, these same towns, with Scilly Islands and the coast of Cornwall many others, prospered more than ever. in quest of tin, laid the foundations of When Christianity was introduced, and that system of merchandise which has pious men betook themselves to monasdone so much to make of our little island teries, they became the special patrons of of Britain a mighty nation, and to bring commerce and agriculture, being laborers under its dominion many of the fairest and mechanicians themselves, as well as provinces in every quarter of the world. instructors of their lay brethren in the Coming to our shores as early, we are various arts of civilized life. "We comtold by antiquaries, as the fifth or sixth mand," runs one of Edgar's laws, "that century before Christ, and at first com- every priest, to increase knowledge, diliing only for the tin that was found more gently learn some handicraft; while plentifully, and better prepared, by the smiths and carpenters, fishermen and millancient Britons than by any other people, ers, weavers and architects, are frequentthese traders soon included lead and hides ly mentioned in old chronicles as belongin their purchases, and brought in ex-ing to various convents. The smith was change various articles of earthenware, the oldest and most honored of all workbrass manufacture, and salt. When the men. "Whence," he is made to ask, in Tyrian race died out, others carried on a curious collection of Anglo-Saxon diathe trade, the Cornish marts being re-logues, "whence hath the plowman his placed by others in the Isle of Wight and plowshares and goad, save by my art? on the coast of Kent, whither the com- whence hath the fisherman his rod, or the modities were conveyed from the inland shoemaker his awl, or the seamstress her districts of England, to be taken in Gallic needle, but from me?" In the same ships for sale in various parts of the Con- work, the merchant asserts his dignity tinent. With the growth of manufacto- and the nature of his calling. "I am useries and marts, increased the number and ful," he says, "to the king and his nobles, variety of articles to be sold. Corn, gold, to rich men and to common folk. I enter silver, iron, and precious stones, as well my ship with my merchandise, and sail as tin and lead, were the chief commodi- across the seas, and sell my wares, and ties exported before and after the con- buy dear things that are not produced in quest of Julius Cæsar. It was the fame this land, and bring them with great danof the British pearls, according to one ger for your good; and sometimes I am tradition, that first prompted Caesar to shipwrecked, and lose all my wares, and cross the Gallic Straits; and the report of hardly myself escape." "What is it his soldiery speedily opened up a thriving you bring us?" one asks. "I bring you," trade with the Kentish towns for oysters he replies, "skins, silks, costly gems and to augment the luxuries of Roman feast- gold, various garments, pigments, wine, ing, for bears to fill the Roman circus, oil, ivory and brass, copper and tin, and for dogs to be used by Roman sports- silver, glass, and such like." "Will you men. The establishment of Latin colo- sell your things here," inquires the other nies in Britain, of course gave a great en- speaker, "as you bought them there?" couragement to trade. Among the towns To which the merchant answers, "Nay, that during the first few Christian centu- in truth; else, where would be the good ries became most famous, there were, be- of all my labor? I will sell them here sides London, Canterbury, and Rochester, dearer than I bought them there, that so Richborough and Dover, Exeter and Ches- I may get some profit, to feed me and my ter, York, Aberdeen, and Dumbarton. wife and children."
In those early days, and for many centuries after, the merchant was the captain of his own little ship, and thus had the entire range of his business under his own supervision. He was deservedly held in honor by his countrymen. By a law of Athelstan, published near the middle of the tenth century, it was appointed that every merchant, even though he were by birth a serf, who had made three jour neys across the sea with his own ship and goods, was to have the rank of a thane. The ships were mere boats, rude constructions of wood, propelled by eight or ten oars, with the assistance of a single square sail suspended from a single mast, and seldom large enough to hold more than half a dozen men, with two or three tons of cargo. Yet in these poor vessels, having no other compass than the sun and stars, and no proper rudder to direct their motions, our fearless forefathers wandered wherever they would. The silks and pigments, referred to in the dialogue just cited, could hardly have come from a nearer part than Italy or Marseilles. We know that trading voyages were often made to Rome, and that in the eighth century one Anglo-Saxon merchant, at any rate, was settled, and had influential position in Marseilles.
bridge, and exhibited them in the streets for sale; and Chester was filled during the summer months by Irishmen, bringing marten-skins and other articles to sell, and buying in exchange the various commodities most needed by their own people.
Some branches of Anglo-Saxon commerce, it must be admitted, were not altogether respectable. In a memoir of another Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester at the time of the Norman Conquest, it is said: "There is a seaport town called Bristol, opposite to Ireland, to which its inhabitants make frequent voyages of trade. Wulfstan cured the people of this town of a most odious custom, which they derived from their ancestors, of buying men and women in all parts of England, and exporting them to Ireland for the sake of gain. You might have seen, with sorrow, long ranks of youths and maidens, of the greatest beauty, tied together with ropes, and daily exposed to sale; nor were these men ashamed-oh! horrid wickedness!-to give up their nearest relations, even their own children, to slavery." It is to be hoped that dealings of this sort were not very common; but it is clear that during these centuries the Irish, or rather, perhaps, the Danes, who were masters of a large part of Ireland, carried on a considerable trade with England. In very early times their merchants brought cloths to Cam
Yet English commerce was still in its infancy. By one of the laws of Lothair, of Kent, living in the seventh century, no one was allowed to buy any thing worth more than twenty pennies-something like five pounds, according to the present value of money-except within the walls of a town, and in the presence of the chief magistrate, or two or more witnesses. Another of Lothair's laws appoints that "If any one of the people of Kent buy any thing in the city of London, he must have two or three honest men, or the king's port-reeve, present at the bargain ;" and in a third it is written: "Let none exchange one thing for another, except in the presence of the sheriff, the mass priest, the lord of the manor, or some other person of undoubted veracity. If they do otherwise, they shall pay a fine of thirty shillings, besides forfeiting the goods so exchanged to the lord of the manor." From such enactments we infer, in the first place, that rogues were so numerous, and false dealings so prevalent, even in these early days, that it was not safe for trade to be carried on in any but the most public manner; and, in the second, that, from the beginning, states and municipalities obtained part of their revenues from imports upon articles of commerce. In Lewes, at the time of the Domesday Survey, a tax of a farthing was levied by the sheriff on the sale of every ox; and when a slave changed hands, the payment due to the town exchequer was fourpence. In most parts of the kingdom, moreover, perhaps in all, a percentage on the price of every article sold for more than twenty pennies was divided between the king and the lord of the manor, half being levied from the buyer and half from the seller. The fairs or markets spread over the kingdom also paid toll to the crown. We read of one in Bedfordshire that yielded seven pounds a year, and of another at Taunton which produced about fifty shillings.
Fairs did the work of shops in AngloSaxon and Anglo-Norman times, and in doing so they gradually lost the religious character with which they were at first